Washboarded roads, condors, and donkey bean soup

Salta Travel Blog

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Got up and hopped in the car and headed northwest into the mountains to see this "7 colored mountain" that Jorge, our hostel manager, told us about. The road climbing out of Salta was gravel and washboarded out, and only 1 lane in places. Of course, no gaurdrails, ect. It followed along an empty river bed, that would be impressive when full. As we climbed up, we met several gauchos (argentine cowboys) on horseback and an overturned truck that took up 1/2 the road. The views were stunning, with the lower elevations having lots of greenery and cacti. As we climbed up, the scenery changed to low shrubbery, almost reminiscent of Utah or other high altitude plains. We saw 3 condors, which I originally thought were air planes. When we finally got up to the top, we saw many llamas, vicuñas, and burros (donkeys). We stopped for lunch in a tiny town called San Antonio de los Cobres. As soon as we stopped the car, 2 little girls wanted to trade us rocks for anything, which we gave them an almost empty bag of cookies and 2 packets of flavored drink mix. We had lunch in a tiny house-like restaurant and had the local special, Locro. We later renamed this donkey bean soup. It was a very rich, cream based, yellow soup, containing lots of beans, onions, and carne (meat). Yet, we are pretty sure the scrap meat was donkey, since it was the only animal we saw within miles of this sleepy little town. The soup was served in clay bowls, made from the surrounding area, which made for a pretty picture. After walking the main road, which mainly consisted of a church, we hopped back into the car and continued towards the canyon. The drive was pretty much the same scenery, high mountain plains, llamas, burros, sheepherders, and small huts which I wrongly assumed nobody lived in. These huts were made out of either rock or the clay ike dirt of the region. Everyonce in awhile we would come upon 5-6 huts conglomerated together, yet this community was big enough to have a church. Another thing we saw that was interesting was along the roads. There were little concrete houses that would house dolls, christian figures, flowers, or a mix of all three. We think they might be graves or memorials. Some of these houses had all red cloths and sometimes even candles surrounding them, although we are not really sure why. We also saw many snall cemetaries, which were very colorful and ornately decorated, allowing us to see them from far away. This was not a short drive, nor were there any large or even small towns along the way. Yet, despite the long distances and remote area, we would see hitchhikers all along the road, many of them being elderly women with heavy bundles on their backs, causing them to stoop over. We started descending into the canyon at around dusk, so we missed a lot of the changing colors of the canyon wall. We came to a grate that switchbacked down a shear side of a mountain, but thankfully it was paved at that point. We cacti started to reappear, and we made it down to Purmamarca and continued on to Humahuaca where we stayed the night in a descent hostel. We had dinner at the bus station cafeteria because nothing else was open. Very tired, went to bed.
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photo by: wvijvers